Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Winning...or Not

This may come as a surprise, but I don't watch televised bicycle racing.  (That's a story for another time.)

Needless to say, I haven't been watching the 2014 Amgen Tour of California; heck, I was only vaguely aware that it was happening.  (I saw it on USA Cycling's website - I didn't qualify to register.  Surprise.)  But, interestingly, I know exactly how this guy feels:

Credit: The Daily Mail
No, he didn't win.  Neither did I.

You see, our team raced this past weekend, a full day of racing at Texas Motor Speedway.  We fielded the largest team we've ever had at a single event, 11 racers, covering every single race save one.  (That's when we ate lunch.)

Despite the large team, overwhelming odds in a couple events, and some strong and very successful racers, we didn't place very well.  Clearly, this wasn't our weekend.

Although many of my teammates had good reasons for their placement, I did not.  I had registered for the Masters 40+ race, a category filled to the brim with talent with accents from maturing Pro/1/2 racers that are still ridiculously fast and quite competitive in their skill category.

This race was no different.  Ridiculously fast, smooth as silk, flowing like water.  25.3mph average on a circuit race with 2 tight corners.  It was quite calm, no major attacks as the storm of the faster category was to follow our race; most of the faster riders were saving their matches for the big purse in the next race.  I was able to easily move around the pack, taking good positions so in the event an attack did happen I could bridge up and try to play with the big boys.

The time dwindles away, I'm watching the officials count down the laps, carefully counting the fingers as we roll by.  Three fingers.  Then two.

We pass the line, officials holding up one finger.  No bell, strange.  I'm in the middle of the pack.  I figure I just can't hear it over the whoosh of the headwind blowing down the front straight and the sound of fast-moving carbon wheels over smooth asphalt.

Halfway through the lap, an escapee!  I move up the pack, looking to see if I can catch a wheel to bridge up and evaluating if the racer stands a chance.  He's slowly walking away, looks good.

Another escapee!  He came from the left, I was on the right and didn't have an opening.  I move to the front 1/4 and take an aggressive position with open air in front of me, watching the duo.  The second rider looks a bit worn, catching the leader as they head into the second tight corner on the course.  The pack accelerates, then slows to take the tight corner.

I take a wide line, braving open air to try to keep my speed up.  I exit the corner with a big speed advantage, stand and launch from the pack.  A couple racers try to catch the wheel, but the delta was big enough that they fell back into the rapidly accelerating pack.

I make the catch.  The second racer is already falling off, the first escapee is pulling strong.  I take his wheel and find the draft to recover for a moment.  We're in the last, long sweeping corner leading to the start finish, it opens up to the front straight.  I see the start-finish.

Wait...wait...GO.  I launch, sprinting toward the line.  I break away from the other escaping rider and make a huge gap *ding* on the chasing, still-accelerating *ding* pack, crossing the line with a large gap *ding* on the pack.

*ding*

I cross the line as the signal from my ears is finally interpreted by my oxygen-deprived brain.

*DING* Is that the bell?

What I said next I cannot put here.  I spend the (real) last lap on the rivets, cursing myself violently for such a mistake.  My mood is colored by it for the rest of the day, brightened only slightly by a 10th place finish in a race that afternoon.

So, when I learn that Eloy Teruel did the exact same thing, I'm heartened.  A little.  A little proof that bone-headed mistakes happen to everyone, from amateurs like me to pros like Eloy.

Thank you, Eloy.  I'd never heard of you before, but, today, you're my hero.

(Until I make another bone-headed mistake.)

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